My Turn: Trump, Golf Cour­ses and the En­vi­ron­ment

Golf Vacations - - News - by David R. Hol­land

When I think of en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and golf cour­ses, a thou­sand thoughts leap gazelle-like through my brain.

Af­ter work­ing and edit­ing some For­est Service En­vi­ron­men­tal Im­pact State­ments, I learned that it’s not bad to cut down trees. It can clean up dead fu­els that make for­est fires tougher to fight and it makes the for­est even health­ier – fire re­gen­er­ates new growth.

Even­tu­ally a tree-lined 100-year-old golf course will have a prob­lem with en­croach­ment and grass stops grow­ing in those ar­eas. The so­lu­tion is to thin out the growth.

So, I started delv­ing into the good and bad of en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues and the world we live in. And I de­cided we have enough golf cour­ses, but if we de­cide to make some changes and im­prove the en­vi­ron­ment sur­round­ing a new golf course then it is a win-win.

I was re­cently in­tro­duced to Pres. Don­ald J. Trump’s long-time en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­viser. His name is Ed Russo and be­fore you close your mind to the words Trump and the en­vi­ron­ment let me tell you a pos­i­tive story that is about the Pres­i­dent, golf and the en­vi­ron­ment.

Russo is the former chair­man of the plan­ning board of Bed­min­ster Town­ship, N.J., and once co-chair­man of the Bed­min­ster Town­ship En­vi­ron­men­tal Com­mis­sion.

When this bird-watch­ing cham­pion for the en­vi­ron­ment heard that John DeLorean’s 435-acre es­tate, Lam­ing­ton Farm, was for sale be­cause of bank­ruptcy and that it could likely be­come a golf course project Russo got en­gaged.

Yep, DeLorean was the guy be­hind the wing-doored car made fa­mous in the movie “Back to the Fu­ture”.

Russo re­mem­bers mak­ing speeches warn­ing res­i­dents that Bed­min­ster’s zon­ing and land-use or­di­nances were not strong enough.

“Some­day, I pre­dicted darkly, a Don­ald Trump will come to town, and we will not be pre­pared to de­fend its ru­ral char­ac­ter,” said Russo in his book “Don­ald J. Trump, An En­vi­ron­men­tal Hero”.

Imag­ine Russo’s dis­may when it was re­vealed it was The Don­ald Trump want­ing to make the old farm and ranch into Trump Na­tional Golf Club Bed­min­ster.

But things changed. He moved to Key West and was happy to hear ru­mors that Trump was hav­ing dif­fi­culty with the en­vi­ron­men­tal “landmines stip­u­lated in the Bed­min­ster or­di­nances”.

Then the phone call came that asked Russo to travel to Trump Tower and dis­cuss en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues con­nected to the pro­posed golf club in Bed­min­ster.

Long story short, Russo went to Trump Tower, told him a lot of things Trump didn’t want to hear and the meet­ing ended with Trump un­happy and Russo left with­out even say­ing good­bye.

End of story, right? Wrong. Soon af­ter, while play­ing at Key West Golf Club, he got a phone call from Trump who told him he was go­ing to build Trump Na­tional Golf Club Bed­min­ster and if he had to ad­here to en­vi­ron­men­tal or­di­nances he would do just that.

“I’ll send you a con­tract you can’t refuse,” Trump told him. “I’m putting you in charge of the prop­erty.” Then, Russo said, he hung up the phone with­out an­other word.

That’s when the hard work be­gan. Russo found the Bed­min­ster prop­erty had sig­nif­i­cant en­vi­ron­ment prob­lems. “The habi­tat was a toxic site,” Russo said. There was a whole list of prob­lems. The prop­erty had been ne­glected for years.

Why can’t we use golf to clean it up Russo asked? Oth­ers work­ing on the project fought him day af­ter day, but Trump sided with Russo and the clean-up be­gan.

“David Peifer, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the Up­per Ri­par­ian Water­shed, rec­om­mended we sta­bi­lize the pa­tient be­fore op­er­at­ing,” Russo said. Ero­sion con­trol and stream sta­bi­liza­tion was tack­led first. “We took open, un­cov­ered, erod­ing soil along stream cor­ri­dors and trans­formed the area into lush, herba­ceous lay­ers of grasses that sta­bi­lized the soil, fil­tered sur­face runoff, and pro­vided new habi­tats for threat­ened and en­dan­gered species of in­dige­nous and mi­gra­tory grass­land birds.

“A spe­cific seed mix was de­vel­oped to pro­mote the habi­tat of grass­land birds, a com­bi­na­tion of warm sea­son and cool sea­son grasses,” Russo wrote. “We called it Don­ald Trump Golden Fes­cue. It looks great, sta­bi­lizes soil, pro­vides pas­sive fil­tra­tion for sur­face runoff, and cre­ates a per­fect habi­tat for grass­land birds.”

That fes­cue was in­stru­men­tal in sta­bi­liz­ing the high­est dunes in Scot­land – at Trump In­ter­na­tional Golf Links Aberdeen – a breath­tak­ing golf course I have seen and played and will never for­get the awe­some ex­pe­ri­ence.

“We took the fes­cue work from New Jersey and trans­ferred that in­no­va­tion to Scot­land. The seed mix we came up with was a health­ier bio-di­verse ver­sion that cre­ated tall and short grasses,” Russo said. “That al­lowed nest­ing birds ar­eas of tall grasses and the shorter grasses al­lowed you to find your golf ball.”

But I have an­other sub­stan­tial in­stance of Trump and the en­vi­ron­ment. That would be Trump Na­tional Golf Links at Ferry Point lo­cated just min­utes from Man­hat­tan in the Bronx and un­der­neath the White­stone Bridge.

“Ferry Point was a toxic time bomb in a spec­tac­u­lar lo­ca­tion,” Russo re­mem­bered. “It re­ally wasn’t a land fill, this was a dump, owned by the city, and peo­ple would just come there just to throw any­thing and ev­ery­thing away.

“We took it as a chal­lenge to ad­dress air qual­ity, habi­tat en­hance­ment for shore birds, soil sta­bi­liza­tion and sur­face wa­ter fil­tra­tion. It went from a mess to a beau­ti­ful golf course,” Russo said.

Fi­nal words from the bird watcher turned Trump en­vi­ron­men­tal ad­vo­cate and ad­viser?

“Trump was very di­rect with me,” Russo said. “He de­serves all the credit. He made it hap­pen. Most of en­vi­ron­men­tal habi­tat en­hance­ments are elec­tive. He has planted mil­lions of dollars worth of trees, sta­bi­lized shore­lines, ex­panded and cre­ated new habi­tat. I gave him choices and op­tions and he knew more about the sub­ject than I knew. He sup­ported ev­ery crazy en­vi­ron­men­tal thing I asked of him.”

By the way, Trump Na­tional Golf Club Bed­min­ster hosted the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open and the 2022 PGA Championship is sched­uled there.

Trump In­ter­na­tional Golf Links, Scot­land

Ed Russo

Trump In­ter­na­tiona No. 18 651 yards mine­field of 18 bunkers.

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